My partner and I actually had a discussion about this topic recently. There seems to be a misconception that travelling is just a spontaneous event that we choose to do whenever we feel like it. From the outside we see that someone is going somewhere, we see the pictures while it’s happening, and then we see the awesome video edit afterwards..
But what comes before all of that?
Many hours of hard work, sacrifice, and patience.
What kind of sacrifices are made?
∇ Living with family or friends/roommates
Having a well paying job won’t matter too much if your cost of living exceeds your income.. So what does this mean? You rely on family and friends. You look for the cheapest way possible to live, to help you save. Living with roommates or family is a choice that we make when there is a financial benefit to it. The living situations are not always glorious (I’ve been sleeping in an unfinished basement for a year). And of course having our own space and being on our own would be great, but so is sipping coconuts on a beach in Vietnam for an entire winter. So with that being said we are very thankful for our cheap living accommodations, but they do usually come with a price.
∇ Long distance relationships
Sometimes money is not made equally in the same location. My boyfriend makes more money out West renting from a friend, whereas I make more money out East because of my living arrangements with my parents. Because of this… and only this we choose to be apart from each other. Since our end goal is the same (to save up as much as possible), this seems to work well for us. By the end of the distance we know we will have saved up enough combined to travel for a long time. However, this is an imperfect situation and also very tough emotionally and physically.
The thing that most people don’t see are all the hours that are put into a saving up to make this lifestyle a reality. We don’t magically have money in our bank accounts to book trips whenever we feel like. We have to work for it just like anyone else would. I have spent many many hours shivering in a pool, serving people food with a forced smile, mending sore bleeding feet and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion from working so much. This means taking any opportunities there are to make money, not booking days off, and always saying yes when you are asked to stay later or cover someone else’s shift. It also means using your skills and abilities to scope out other means of income as well. Currently, I am working 10-11 hour days as a waitress where we are lucky to have 15 minutes off of our feet to eat and teaching my own private swimming lessons for 1-2 hours before working my shift at the restaurant. Yes… I’m extremely tired.
∇ Not having a Career
Careers don’t really work out with this type of lifestyle unless you have one that lets you take 6 months off a year. To make travelling a lifestyle, you have to be okay with working minimum wage jobs or only working seasonally. Lifeguarding has helped me out immensely with this. There are pools, rivers, and lakes everywhere and it is easy to find a paid position almost anywhere. I expect now that I have experience serving, that too will come in handy with job flexibility. My boyfriend has a seasonal position where most people are laid off in his company over the winter. This works wonderfully for what we do, however, it’s a big sacrifice. It’s risky and not everyone is okay with knowing that they will have to serve food or teach swimming lessons in between travelling for the next number of years.
∇ Being extremely money conscious
No to going out, no to buying liquor. No indulging in shopping until you drop. Every penny you spend is accounted for. This can get tough. I treat myself once in a while but for the most part I am always in money saving mode. I can’t remember the last time I shopped for clothes. I borrow or interchange between the three outfits I own. I take free meals whenever I can. My phone is a dinosaur that could combust at any moment.. but these are the choices I make to save the money that I want to spend on travel. Saving money can become an obsession. My boyfriend precooks his meals and eats chicken and rice everyday because it saves money… not because it’s the best meal he’s ever had.
∇ Patience… Lots of Patience
Sometimes it might feel like saving money is taking forever and just like a diet, you want to say “whatever, I’ll just blow x amount of dollars on this. I will go out every night… I’ll never save up enough to travel so what’s the point in living this uncomfortably right now?”. But trust me when I say it is possible. You have to persevere, push through and trust that you will make it to the pot of gold at the end. This is a sacrifice in sanity. Having patience is difficult especially when we are living in a “demanding, I want it now” world.
So no…. travelling is not a career. I don’t make money from it, I just work hard with my partner to make our lifestyle possible. I use the resources that I have to make travelling a reality.
When you get in the swing of things and debts are paid off, it’s much easier to travel when you have nothing to pay for. Then whilst travelling you can start to work small jobs around the world, giving you enough to eat for the day and have accommodation for the night.
Backpacking is not luxurious itself and the work leading up to it to make it possible is not either. Don’t be fooled by the awesome travel video edits.
Have a great day!